Safe at home

Alain de Botton has interesting thoughts on home. “Perfect” is probably out of reach, but we could definitely do a lot better. Too many of our homes do make us “cross and angry.” Our true home, after all, extends well beyond walls. “Look again at that dot…”*

We need a home in the psychological sense as much as we need one in the physical: to compensate for a vulnerability. We need a refuge to shore up our states of mind, because so much of the world is opposed to our allegiances. We need our rooms to align us to desirable versions of ourselves and to keep alive the important, evanescent sides of us.


buildings are able to solve no more than a fraction of our dissatisfactions or prevent evil from unfolding under their watch.


Architecture, even at its most accomplished, will only ever constitute a small, and imperfect (expensive, prone to destruction, and morally unreliable), protest against the state of things.

Right. The state of things is that our little mote of terra firma, our modest corner of real estate, is in a volatile and fragile market. We delude ourselves to think we can go on forever playing the territorial game, regions and states, one against the others. Our buildings may be aesthetically appealing or not, may provide shelter from the storm or not, but they cannot sustain our belligerent nationalistic pride. We must come to think of home as the entire human abode, spaceship earth, the ultimate earthship.

Neil Tyson came to Vanderbilt, night before last, and reminded us that “the universe has a shipload of stars.” That could be bad for one’s ego, or it could be mind-expanding. “We are stardust.”

Home as safe haven, as  sturdy vehicle into the future, as mirror of our sustainable souls… the essence of home has far more to do with our states of mind than with our building design and materials. It’s a small ship, in a big  sea of stars. We are not alone, and as Thoreau said: why should we feel lonely? “Is not our planet in the Milky Way?”



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